The roots of the work AURA does today is embedded in the desire of Canadians wanting to help the mass exodus of refugees from South East Asia in the late 1970’s. It is the plight and flight of these people that formed the genesis of Canada's current refugee sponsorship programs. AURA can directly trace our roots to those first Canadians that not only saw the need to help these people, but who also chose to get directly involved in supporting and aiding people in need.

Jean Watt Residence
The Jean Watt Residence.
Present day AURA is an amalgamation of two refugee agencies who continued supporting refugees after the initial impact of the crises of the late 1970’s subsided.

The Toronto United Church Emergency Refugee Relief (TUCERR) organization began in 1985 as a response to the dilemma of young political refugee claimants being held in detention centre like conditions at Pearson International Airport. These refugees were held with little access to services, support, or advocates. TUCERR offered support by first attempting to house these refugees in the homes of concerned Church members, but quickly realized that the need exceeded available space. In order to create improved conditions, a private residence was dedicated to housing refugees, named the Jean Watt Residence. TUCERR’s efforts continued to support inland claimants by providing friendship, temporary shelter, and practical assistance to refugees.

The Working Group on Refugee Resettlement (WGRR) came together in the fall of 1985 with a mandate to facilitate the sponsorship of refugees through churches in the Anglican Diocese of Toronto and the Toronto
Conference of the United Church. WGRR quickly gained charitable status soon after becoming established and in 1991 WGRR became federally incorporated as a registered non-profit agency. WGRR’s mandate was to; promote sponsorship, assist sponsoring groups, educate the community about the needs of refugees, and to overall improve the well-being of refugees as they settle in Canada.

In 1994 TUCERR merged with WGRR as the United Church had been operating the Jean Watt Residence for a significant amount of time. The merger allowed WGRR to focus its mandate on overseas sponsorship while developing a comprehensive referral service for inland claimants. In 2006, WGRR changed to the Anglican United Refugee Alliance (AURA) in order to modernize the organization. This refocusing was centred on educating churches and community groups about the needs of refugees and how they may sponsor refugees.

Today AURA represents both the Anglican Diocese of Toronto and the Toronto Conference of the United Church of Canada as a Sponsorship Agreement Holder with Citizenship and Immigration Canada. As a Canadian charitable organization, AURA exists to assist in the sponsorship and resettlement of refugees to Canada by working directly with Canadians who continue to care about those who need the most help from around the globe.